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I just came from a breakfast program sponsored by City House, a non-profit organization on whose board I sit.

I’ve written about City House once before. Its core mission is to provide spiritual listening to people on the margins – including those experiencing poverty, addiction, and imprisonment. Trained volunteer Spiritual Companions meet one-on-one or in groups with participants at social service agency sites where they live or are receiving services. City House also offers a spiritual friendship program and leadership development for people in the mainstream who want to deepen their relationship with those experiencing life at the margins.

We were excited to announce this morning that one of our benefactors has offered a matching gift – matching the gifts of new donors and existing donors who increase their contribution amounts. That makes this a wonderful time to consider making a donation to City House.

As someone who has been a spiritual director and a retreat leader for many years, I have seen the difference it makes in people’s lives to have someone to whom they can tell their story, someone who will listen fully to them without judgment and with an open heart, someone who can help them find the incidents of grace in their lives. Imagine how much that means to the people City House serves!

Please consider supporting our work. A donation in any size would make an enormous difference to the work we can do – especially given the matching gift challenge. You can make a donation on-line or by check. If you prefer an on-line donation, please visit the City House website and click on the Donate button at the bottom of the home page. Alternatively, you can send a check payable to City House and mail it to City House at 1730 New Brighton Blvd #253, Minneapolis MN 55413-1248.

Thank you for considering this. And if you do not have the financial means to donate (and even if you do), please keep our work in your prayers.

This weekend I was at Koinonia Retreat Center with members of UST Camous Ministry giving a retreat for UST undergraduates.
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The subject of the retreat was the Ten Commandments. Our goal was to help students see the commandments as a roadmap to growth of love of God and one another and to broaden their understanding of what the commandments ask of us.

The retreat was silent and I am enormously impressed at how well the students entered into that silence. The fact that we were in such beautiful surroundings on a gorgeous fall weekend may have helped.
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I think all of us spent time between the retreat talks giving thanks for the beauty of creation.
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I arise today with tremendous gratitude for the blessings of this time away with the students.

Today is the 11th anniversary of my father’s death. It is hard to believe it is that many years. Sometimes it seems like yesterday, especially during those times when the feelings of loss rise so powerfully. The prompts are varied: I listen to my daughter’s recital and think how much my father would have enjoyed hearing her…I am invited to give a talk somewhere and think of how proud he would have been at it…We celebrate a family event together and I miss his laughter – or his sarcasm. This November will be the first wedding of one of his granchildren and I know the pain of loss will arise fiercely then.

I’ve talked about death before. The only real solace is my conviction of resurrection. But that conviction doesn’t take away my missing my dad.

When I think of hid death, I think of the prayer in Clarence Enzler’s version of stations (Everyman’s Way of the Cross) at the Thirteenth Station (Jesus is Taken from the Cross). In our response to Jesus at this station, Enzler has us pray:

I beg you, Lord, help me accept the partings that must come – from friends who go away, my children leaving home, and most of all, my dear ones when you shall call them to yourself. Then, give me grace to say: “As it has pleased you, Lord, to take them home, I bow to your most holy will. And if by one word I might restore their lives against your will I would not speak.”

When I pray that prayer, it is difficult for me to get the words out. When I pray that prayer, I half shake my head, especially at that last line because there are times I’d give just about anything to have some more time with my father.

But I know I can’t ask that. So I pray, let me grown in my acceptance so that I am able to pray those lines more honestly and fully, to more and more bow to God’s most holy will.

Still, I miss my dad.

Teresa’s Poetry

Today the Catholic Church celebrates the feast of St. Teresa of Avila, a woman who displayed a remarkable independence of spirit in 16th Century Spain, during a time when the Church was not particularly tolerant of independence of thought or spirit and when no one was tolerant of such a characteristic in a woman. She bent Church rules, she barely survived the Spanish Inquisition, she annoyed many with her reform of both the male and female Carmelite orders, and she did it all while suffering debilitating illness through most of her life – living with almost constant pain. At the same time, she authored a body of written work that many would call the cornerstone of Christian mysticism, and she is, even today, one of the most widely read writers in the Spanish language.

Among other things, Teresa was a poet. She wrote poems not for their own sake, but rather (in the words of one of her biographers) “as a release for the mystical fire she could no longer contain in her heart.

I once before shared one of her poems (here). In honor of her feast, here is another. It is titled On Those Words “Dilectus Meus Mihi”.

Myself surrendered and given,
The exchange is this:
My Beloved is for me,
And I am for my Beloved.

When the Gentle hunter
Wounded and subdued me,
In love’s arms,
My soul fallen;
New life receiving,
Thus did I exchange
My Beloved is for me,
And I am for my Beloved.

The arrow hew drew
Full of love,
My soul was oned
With her Creator.
Other love I want not,
Surrendered now to my God,
That my Beloved is for me,
And I am for my Beloved.

I have to get out early this morning, so let me simply share a reminder we all need. This comes from Evelyn Underhill, whose writings on mysticism have been very meaningful for me. Underhill writes:

We mostly spend our lives conjugating three verbs: to Want, to Have and to Do. Craving, clutching, and fussing, on the material, political, social, emotional, intellectual, even on the religious plane, we are kept in perpetual unrest, forgetting that none of these verbs have any ultimate significance, except so far as they are transcended by and included in the fundamental verb, to Be, and that Being, not wanting, having and doing, is the essence of the spiritual life.

As one of my friends observed yesterday when I sent this to him, Underhill describes aptly the dilemma of being human. That we always think we have to do or have in order to justify our existence. Yet all we need to do is Be.

Being “is the essence of the spiritual life.”

This morning I spoke at St. Edward’s Catholic Church in Bloomington as part of their “Second Sunday” Speaker series. The topic I picked to speak on is Humility in Today’s World.

Although we live in a society that does not particularly prize humility, humility is a central virtue in the Catholic tradition. Saint Augustine called humility and foundation of all the virtues and St. Vincent dePaul attributed all of the graces he received to humility.

In my talk, I spoke about what humility is (distinguishing true humility from false humility), why I think it is an important virtue for us to cultivate in today’s world, and suggested ways we might develop this virtue. I then gave those present time for some individual reflection, after which we had a good discussion of the challenges to developing humility.

You can access a recording of my talk here or stream it from the icon below. (The podcast runs for 39:02.) You can find the handout I gave the participants for individual reflection here.

Note: My recorder was sitting right next the microphone, so you may want to lower the volume as you listen.

Permit me another post about bus riding in the Twin Cities. Last week I wrote about the people one encounters riding the bus. Today I want to celebrate the drivers on the bus.

I recognize that my sample is pretty small, as I’ve only been riding buses in Minneapolis for the last month or so. So I can’t claim that my experience is representative of all of the bus drivers in the city. But my experience thus far has been that the drivers on the buses I have ridden have been uniformly pleasant and helpful.

I’m guessing that being a bus driver is not the most interesting job in the world. One drives back and forth over the same route multiple times a day. I could easily imagine boredom leading to irritation and unpleasantness.

Instead, what I have observed on my bus rides is drivers who great passengers with a smile. Bus drivers who patiently answer the questions of riders not sure whether they are on the right bus.

Yesterday’s bus driver made me smile as she announced each stop. “16th Street. Basilica of St. Mary.” “Walker Scupture Garden. And across the street, Loring Park.” “__ street. Chipote, Kowalski’s.” “– street. Coffee shop, gas stations.” And my favorite, “__ street. My Sister’s Closet. (laugh) My sister never liked when I went in her closet. If I borrowed something of hers without her permission, well, I was in trouble.” I wasn’t the only one who smiled back at her as she looked in the rear-view mirror at the riders.

Some jobs are more intrinsically interesting than others. But how we do our jobs – whatever they are – makes an enormous difference to us and to those who we encounter.

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